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It was an offer too good to refuse… Either make a Bo-Bayom Bar Mitzvah celebration, or just do a Shabbos for the family and instead use the savings to go put on his Tefillin for the first time in the holy land.
To our soon to be 13-year-old, Simcha, there wasn’t a question in his mind, so off to the Eretz Yisroel for the first time he went, accompanied by myself and my wife, leaving our other six children by an assortment of terrific family and friends (thank you ALL!), for a whirlwind trip all over the country that he’ll never forget!
What do we mean? Read on!
We flew from Newark with El-Al, on the brand-new Dreamliner aircraft supposedly a huge step up from the previous aircrafts but while it had some cool features which we’ll briefly talk about, most of the upgrades were not so noticeable in the economy class section.
The new, large-format entertainment module offered some pretty nifty features, such as texting seat-to seat, daf yomi and shiurim as well as serving to control the overhead lights, summon the stewardesses and more.
Some other cool features was the simulated cockpit views, and google earth features, showing detailed street maps, pictures and attractions all over the world, which you could spin, zoom in on, and play with.
All of this in addition to their regular available entertainment assortment assortment of shows, movies and a new section of great kids games – perfect for those traveling with kids.
I did miss the individual air conditioners above the seats – the dreamliner leaves you with no individual climate controls…
The transportation system in Israel is top-notch, and we took a nesher (shared taxi) from Ben Gurion airport to Jerusalem, where we’d be spending the night, before heading for a quick brunch at Uri’s Pizza in Geula, where we had our first only-in-Israel moment…
Continuing with your article...
In Israel, everyone is one big happy family, so this guy seated across from us (pictured above) told us he gets ‘messages from the clouds’, and unsolicited, gave us some interesting mussar and advice for life before giving us a hug on our way out.
We walked down to Meah Shearim, where we met this unique character at the Jerusalem Yarmulka store, (check out his tefillin, headgear, ponytail, and braided tefillin-strap bracelet – can you say Jerusalem Syndrome?) where we bought a tefillin bag personalized on the spot, as so many of the stores in that area all do.
Love the hole-in-the-wall stores of Meah Shearim!
From there we took a cab to Sha’ar Yaffa, so we could walk to the kosel through the arab shuk hawking all kinds of wares.
….including Judaica, Yarmulkas, Shofaros and more – but stay away from buying any Talleisim or Tzitizis here, no matter the price – they need to have been tied by Jews in order to be kosher.
Never pay the asking price in the shuk!! The first price is always double to three times what you can get the item for. If you don’t get your price, walk away. The next store over will give it to you, or the store owner will capitulate.
On the way out of the shuk is the Cardo… an ancient marketplace street from the Roman era… this mural at one end brings it to life.
From here you can also see the Churva Shul (Destroyed Synagogue), that has been rebuilt in recent years, and is absolutely magnificent! While it cost 20 shekel each (as of today approx $5.71 US) to enter, we felt it was worth the money.
The view from the catwalk ring on the inside the dome. What a view!
Afterwards you can head outside and take this spiral staircase to the outside catwalk, offering unparalleled views of the old city and Har Hazeisim (the Mount of Olives)
Although we had yet to reach the Kosel Plaza, seeing the Temple Mount from here made us decide to tear kriah here, rather than wait until we’d get down – after all,
THIS was the ‘Makom Hamikdash’ (place of the temple)!
1) When heading to the Kosel, wear a shirt you won’t mind tearing, as halacha dictates that one who visits the place where the Beis Hamikdosh (Holy Temple) stood tears their clothes as a sign of mourning.
2) If you are able, start off the tear where you have a knife handy to make it easier… You can NOT bring a knife or other sharp instrument into the kosel area – you will be stopped at the security checkpoint.
Heading down to the basement of the Churva Shul, there are excavated remains of a Mikva from the era of the Beis Hamikdash, as well as other unique excavations uncovered during the shul’s rebuilding a few years back.
Definitely worth a look if you’ve already paid to come in.
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Heading towards the kosel plaza you will pass some other ruins of which we took this quick picture (above ) of as well, before arriving at the kosel itself, of which we took no pictures and instead spent some quality time with Our Maker, the One Above.
1) Don’t change your $$ at that airport to avoid paying hefty commissions. There are multiple places to do so all around Jerusalem (Geulah, Center 1, Central Bus Station, Etc.) that will gladly exchange your $ to shekels for 0% commission.
2) If you are heading to the Kosel, ask the money-changer for small change as you can expect to be distributing Tzedaka (charity) to tens of those who will request it of you, and you may find it awkwards to ask for change.
3) From the Kosel, there are many transportation options, including taxis and buses that will take you back into Jerusalem or to the Central Bus Station or you can take the new train from there as well, and continue on to anywhere in the country from there.
Picture above is of us on an accordion bus leaving from the Kosel…
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More coming up in the upcoming continuation…
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